McConnell to Biden: Your overcautious views on when Americans can safely gather is another example of you being anti-science

A fine, if characteristically low-key, indictment of some of Biden’s worst foibles on COVID messaging to date. You didn’t “inherit a shambles” from Trump’s administration on the vaccination program, McConnell reminds him, which is true. And your aspiration to administer 100 million doses in 100 days is a joke considering that we were already exceeding that pace on some days before you were sworn in, he adds. Again, correctly.

That’s Team Joe’s approach to the pandemic in a nutshell, though. Don’t just underpromise and overdeliver, underpromise to a ludicrous degree. The same goes for Biden’s target date of May 1, announced last week, for making all Americans over 18 eligible to be vaccinated. States were already moving expeditiously in that direction; all adults are eligible in Alaska right now and all adults will be eligible in Mississippi tomorrow, with Georgia, Michigan, Utah, and Connecticut to follow in early April. That will put tremendous pressure on other governors to follow suit quickly, not wanting to be seen as laggards relative to their neighbors. The May 1 deadline is another case of Biden setting the bar on the floor so that his team can easily step over it.

McConnell even reminds him that Fauci recently projected that all Americans would be eligible sometime in April, making the May 1 deadline that much more comically cautious. Except that’s not quite true: Fauci did initially see April as the month when the general population would begin to get vaccinated but he revised that to May or June last month when Johnson & Johnson ran into manufacturing delays. I think we’re back on the April timeline now thanks to Merck’s recent agreement to partner with J&J on manufacturing their vaccine, but Fauci had grown more cautious about general eligibility than McConnell is letting on.

What really irks Cocaine Mitch, and a lot of righties, is this passage from Biden’s COVID speech last week:

Because here’s the point: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together.

McConnell gets a little chesty in his speech about how freedom-loving patriots don’t need permission from their government to gather with friends in their backyards, but I didn’t take Biden to be suggesting otherwise. Obviously Americans defy COVID guidance all the time. Biden was talking about what can be done safely or not. McConnell challenges him on that too, reminding him that the CDC says vaccinated Americans can safely gather for cookouts — or even indoors — right now in small groups, which is true. But that was Biden’s point, I thought: Get everyone vaccinated by July 4 and then people can safely gather with whoever they want. Right now most of us are still vulnerable. A cookout would be low-risk since it’s outdoors but not necessarily no-risk. That’s what we’re aiming for with the vaccine campaign, right? No risk.

Which is not to say that Biden’s not underpromising to an embarrassing degree there too. As Scott Gottlieb said a few days ago, Americans will be socializing again long before Independence Day. We’re on pace at the moment to have 70 percent(!) of the public partially vaccinated by June 26 and 50 percent covered by May 15. Cases will drop sharply in spring. Even the unvaccinated are going to be out and about, taking advantage. The idea of a small cookout in the backyard as the country’s greatest post-pandemic aspiration four months from now is absurd. We might be seeing full attendance at Major League Baseball games again by that point.

Take 10 minutes to watch. His best line is the one about not trusting public-health experts who cheered on massive BLM rallies last summer to micromanage people’s backyard barbecues.

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